Action Line columnist does readers a disservice

Bill Lazar takes the new San Jose Mercury News Action Line columnist to task for accepting a company's PR at face value in his first column, which covered CostCo's policy of checking customer bags.

When I saw today's column, I thought perhaps your response would include an apology for the initial answer plus some statistics on shoplifting and how this helps Costco keep their costs (and prices) down, even if the company won't admit it. How sad that none of that was included.

For several years, I wrote the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's version of an Action Line column, which it calls Ask Ed Brice. I'd love to do the job again if I could find a newspaper that would hire me to write it part-time from Florida.

Reader service columns hit their high-water mark in the consumer activism era of the '70s and '80s, when journalists could make a name for themselves with look-out-for-the-little-guy reports (as John Stossel and Geraldo Rivera did). Somewhere around here I have a binder from the "Action Line Reporters Association," a long-defunct group that my Ed Brice predecessor must have joined.

Lazar's right to expect his new Action Line columnist to be aggressive in holding companies accountable -- that job is a great opportunity to stick up for mistreated consumers. A call from a newspaper columnist cut through the BS quickly, because few companies wanted to see the words "declined to respond to the complaint" in the paper.

Comments

I abandoned a reader service column gig 10 years ago after only two months when I realized even piddling complaints were, by a two to one margin, forwarded to legal counsel.
The business managers who would talk were uniformly surly, even when they weren't guilty and might have sounded like sympathetic victims of insufferable whiners.

Most newspapers have long since lost their self respect. Expecting their reporters to get any is probably asking too much.

Did your php project reemerge here in my absence?

Your letter to Action Line was printed in today's edition, though the doofus columnist made no response to it. And never printed my letter.

It wasn't really intended for publication, though I don't mind that it was published. It's strange that he's running it like a letters page rather than printing action line requests and trying to resolve them.

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